10/8/07The yellow ribbons are gone now
By JEFFERSON WEAVER
The yellow ribbons are gone now, save for a few faded strings stubbornly refusing to let us forget a lost little boy.
His name was Buddy; actually, his name was Tristen Myers, but everyone called him Buddy, even the hundreds of strangers who turned out to search for him. Buddy disappeared on Oct. 5, 2000, and was never seen again.
I violate one of the rules of missing persons cases every time I use the past tense when referring to Buddy. My friend Monica Caison, the director for the CUE Center for Missing Persons, rarely uses the word was when talking about a missing person. She fussed at me about that once, but seven years after he vanished, very few folks hold out any hope that Buddy will ever be found alive.
Of the hundreds of thousands people reported missing that year in America, most turned up as runaways or kidnappings or people who just gave up and walked away. Some were found dead, either by accident or murder or suicide. And some never showed up at all.
Buddy Myers was one of the last.
Buddy would be 11 now, a good age to be a little boy surrounded by people who love you.
I never met Buddy, but I got to know him in the days and years after Oct. 5, 2000. I was one of the first reporters on the scene as the search began around his great aunts home near Roseboro, and I was one of the last to leave several days later. I became a searcher as well as a newsman, which is a violation of a number of rules, but breaking a few rules seemed less important than finding a lost little boy in the cooling autumn air.
I think a lot about Buddy at this time of the year, as my faithful readers know. I almost forget about him sometimes, though his MISSING poster is part of a sadly growing collection on the wall of my office. There are notes with happy endings there, too, but there are more missing posters scrawled with found dead or remains discovered or parents arrested or other words that wrote a final chapter in one tragedy or another.
I hope that Buddy is alive somewhere, the victim of a fairytale where someone found him wandering the road and adopted him into a loving, stable home, mistaking him for the child he was before his Aunt Donna took him in.
Id rather he were dead than be part of one of the nightmare scenarios that run through the mind of anyone who loves children.
Im afraid Buddy, like so many other missing children, was simply lost. Maybe someday someone will find his bones, and hell end up the subject of one of those disturbing clay models forensic reconstructors create to show what someone looked like when they could still run and play and grow up in a safe and happy home.
Sometimes those recreations help investigators put a name to a body; sometimes the body remains an UNID, shorthand for Unidentified Individual. During another search, I met a very devout forensic reconstructor who didnt call them UNIDs, but KBTGs victims who were Known But To God.
I met that reconstructor during the search for Chase Powell; the circumstances behind Powells disappearance were far different than those of Buddy, but many of the old feelings came back. Almost daily I saw hope leave the faces of the searchers and the investigators and the family.
Chase and Buddy were far different, but they had something in common: they were someones children. Chase Powells family loved him, and still does love him. Buddys birth parents are best forgotten, Im afraid, but to the relatives who stepped in to raise him, Buddy was their child.
Parents should be able to count on their children being there, watching their kids grow up and marry and have kids of their own. Buddys family will never have that chance. Powells family wont, either; neither will the families of Buddy or Kynande Bennett or Michelle Bullard or Pamela Waldher or Susan Anderson or Prissy Dowless. Alice Donovan will never hold her grandchildren.
The families of Michelle, Pamela and Chase at least had bodies to bury, and in the Donovan and Powell cases, the families had the closure of seeing justice done. I say closure, and not pleasure, because when Mrs. Powell reached out to the mother of her sons killer in the courtroom, there was no pleasure for anyone. They were just two women had lost sons, although one was still alive.
Would Buddys Aunt Donna reach out to the family of the person who killed Buddy? I dont know, but I think so.
Thats assuming, of course, that the little boy was murdered, and didnt just disappear into the swamp or the claypits near Donnas home.
Monica Caison told me last year that sometimes when she cant sleep, she runs over missing persons cases in her mind. Its a long sad roll call, one without a top or bottom, a list that runs in a circle, and every single name is of someone, even a grownup, who was someones child.
Hopefully, Buddy still is someones child, although I have a hard time not using the past tense when I write about the little boy who lived down a dirt road and loved NASCAR, his dogs and horses.
The yellow ribbons are forgotten now; there are just a few threads left to wave sadly beside N.C. 24 near Roseboro.
The yellow ribbons are forgotten, but Buddys not at least for those of us who still desperately want to think of a lost boy in the present tense.